Many sexual harassment claims are filed because a workplace has become a hostile environment. This means that the offensive conduct, based on the sex of the victim, is so severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would see the environment as hostile or abusive. A hostile environment is created by employees (or even non-employees) who, for instance, engage in conversation that is sexually offensive or display sexually explicit pictures. Employers have a legal obligation to make sure that the workplace is not a hostile environment. If your workplace is intolerable, contact an attorney to discuss a possible hostile environment sexual harassment claim.
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What Can an Employee Do About Sexual Harassment?
People who suffer sexual harassment can feel powerless, especially when they are told that there is nothing they can do about it. Victims of sexual harassment, however, have strong rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and many state laws. An experienced attorney from Allred, Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles, CA, can tell you exactly what you can do to put a stop to sexual harassment.
In many sexual harassment cases, especially those involving a hostile work environment, your co-workers may not even realize that their conduct is offensive. If you let them know how you feel about the conduct, this may resolve the problem; they may stop the offensive conduct out of a genuine concern for your sensibilities or a desire to avoid workplace tension. If the issue is not resolved, at least you have put the harassers on notice.
If the offensive conduct does not stop, you still have options. Some companies have detailed procedures for handling sexual harassment complaints. If your company has such a procedure, you should follow it to the letter, taking note of any time limits set out in that policy. If your company has designated certain staff to receive sexual harassment complaints, then that is where you should bring your complaint.
If your company has no set procedure, speak with your immediate supervisor about the harassment. If your supervisor has been harassing you, make your complaint to the supervisor's immediate superior. It is important, particularly in hostile environment cases, to make sure that your company's management knows of the harassment.
Keep a record of your complaints. You should note the date and time of each complaint, the name and title of the person to whom the complaint was made and the response, if any, to your complaint.
Filing a charge of discrimination
If you are unable to resolve your harassment complaint by using your employer's internal procedures and you wish to pursue the matter, you will need to file an administrative charge with the appropriate governmental agency. The agency is either the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state's human rights or civil rights enforcement agency. The governmental agency will investigate your claim. It will attempt to resolve it by negotiating with your employer, if you desire. A lawyer can assist you with this process.
If the agency decides not to proceed with your complaint, either because the evidence does not establish the harassment or because the agency does not wish to file a lawsuit against your employer for another reason, it will issue you a "right to sue" notice. This means that you may bring your case to court.
If the agency finds significant evidence of harassment and it is not able to resolve the matter with your employer, it may file a lawsuit against your employer.
If the appropriate governmental agency issues a "right to sue" letter, you may bring a civil lawsuit for the injuries you suffered due to the sexual harassment. You do not need to show physical injuries. The most common injuries in sexual harassment cases are the emotional injuries suffered by the victim.
If your sexual harassment suit is successful, your remedies may include:
- Reinstatement, if you lost your job
- Back pay, if you lost pay or missed out on a deserved raise
- Lost fringe benefits
- Damages for emotional distress
- A requirement that your employer initiate policies or training to stop sexual harassment
- Your attorney's fees and court costs
In some states, you may be able to obtain punitive damages if your employer acted with malice or reckless indifference.
Speak to an employment law attorney
You are not powerless. You can take steps to stop sexual harassment. An experienced employment law attorney from Allred, Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles, CA, can help you take those steps and obtain the justice you deserve.
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